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These Are the Best Architecture Images from the NYPL’s New Public Domain Collection

These Are the Best Architecture Images from the NYPL’s New Public Domain Collection
These Are the Best Architecture Images from the NYPL’s New Public Domain Collection, Woolworth Building construction. Image via The New York Public Library
Woolworth Building construction. Image via The New York Public Library

Last week the New York Public Library made over 180,000 images from their digital archives available in the public domain, and free for high-resolution download. Not only are the images available for download, but since they are in the public domain and free of any copyright restrictions, users have the freedom to get creative and alter, modify, and reuse the images in any manner they see fit. Featuring a wide variety of images including drawings, engravings, photographs, maps, postcards, and in some cases, digitized copies of entire books, the collection has been noted for fascinating historical artifacts such as a set of color drawings of Egyptian gods and goddesses, and a digitized book from the 18th century containing over 400 color plates depicting various current and historical fashion trends.

Of course, the archive also includes a significant assortment of captivating architectural images that range from everyday scenes to historic treasures. We've trawled the database to find some of the most unusual and insightful examples - read on to see a selection of the most interesting architectural images from NYPL’s digital archives.

Design Development of the Chrysler Building. Image via The New York Public Library The Bund, Shanghai in the early 1900s. Image via The New York Public Library World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library via The New York Public Library +36

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the architectural images focus on New York City and the surrounding region. One especially striking piece from the collection is a series of four drawings depicting the design development of the Chrysler Building.

Design Development of the Chrysler Building. Image via The New York Public Library
Design Development of the Chrysler Building. Image via The New York Public Library

Similarly, a collection of images of the construction of the Woolworth Building provides a unique perspective on a familiar landmark.

Woolworth Building construction. Image via The New York Public Library
Woolworth Building construction. Image via The New York Public Library

Taking a broader view on the city, the collection includes a series of panoramic photos depicting the length of Fifth Avenue in 1911, as well as color drawings from 1899 depicting all of the buildings along Broadway.

Fifth Avenue at 7th Street, 1911. Image via The New York Public Library
Fifth Avenue at 7th Street, 1911. Image via The New York Public Library
Broadway, 1899. Image via The New York Public Library
Broadway, 1899. Image via The New York Public Library

Broadway, 1899. Image via The New York Public Library Broadway, 1899. Image via The New York Public Library Broadway, 1899. Image via The New York Public Library Broadway, 1899. Image via The New York Public Library +36

The archive also features a digitized book documenting the facades and floor plans of various New York City apartment buildings from 1909.

A New York apartment building, circa 1909. Image via The New York Public Library
A New York apartment building, circa 1909. Image via The New York Public Library

Venturing outside the city, the 1860 book Villas on the Hudson provides photo-lithographs and floor plans of thirty-one country houses.

Cottenet Residence, from "Villas on the Hudson". Image via The New York Public Library
Cottenet Residence, from "Villas on the Hudson". Image via The New York Public Library
Cottenet Residence plan, from "Villas on the Hudson". Image via The New York Public Library
Cottenet Residence plan, from "Villas on the Hudson". Image via The New York Public Library

The library also has an extensive collection of images documenting its own history, including design drawings of the façade of the New York Public Library building, as well as hundreds of photographs documenting the building’s construction between 1902 and 1911.

Fifth Avenue facade of New York Public Library. Image via The New York Public Library
Fifth Avenue facade of New York Public Library. Image via The New York Public Library

New York Public Library under construction. Image via The New York Public Library New York Public Library under construction. Image via The New York Public Library New York Public Library under construction. Image via The New York Public Library New York Public Library under construction. Image via The New York Public Library +36

In addition to the local focus, the collection provides historical views of places around the world that look very different today, like this view of Mecca from the 1880s, or the postcard of the Bund in Shanghai from the early 20th century.

Mecca in the 1880s. Image via The New York Public Library
Mecca in the 1880s. Image via The New York Public Library
The Bund, Shanghai in the early 1900s. Image via The New York Public Library
The Bund, Shanghai in the early 1900s. Image via The New York Public Library

The age of the images in the collection provides opportunities to see views of historic buildings that have since been demolished or destroyed, such as Pennsylvania Station, San Francisco’s City Hall prior to the 1906 earthquake, the Crystal Palace, and the Singer Building, once the tallest building in the world, but demolished in 1968.

Penn Station. Image via The New York Public Library
Penn Station. Image via The New York Public Library

Penn Station. Image via The New York Public Library Singer Building. Image via The New York Public Library San Francisco City Hall, 1901. Image via The New York Public Library Crystal Palace. Image via The New York Public Library +36

These archives also remind us of the effort required to document architectural details in an era before photography was commonplace, with several books from the collection providing intricately detailed drawings depicting decorative elements of Arabic architecture.

via The New York Public Library
via The New York Public Library
via The New York Public Library
via The New York Public Library

One of the most interesting aspects of the collection is the wide variety of stereoscopic images, or stereograms. Similar in function to postcards, these stereograms frequently depict landscapes or urban views, with each card containing two nearly identical images that, when viewed through a stereoscope, give the illusion of a three dimensional scene. The archive of stereograms includes an extensive assortment of views of the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library
World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library

World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library +36

Finally, perhaps even more striking than the stereograms from the World’s Fair are the images from the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Great Chicago Fire aftermath. Image via The New York Public Library
Great Chicago Fire aftermath. Image via The New York Public Library

Great Chicago Fire aftermath. Image via The New York Public Library Great Chicago Fire aftermath. Image via The New York Public Library Great Chicago Fire aftermath. Image via The New York Public Library Great Chicago Fire aftermath. Image via The New York Public Library +36

This selection only scratches the surface of the treasure trove of images in the NYPL’s digital archive. Explore the collection yourself here, and select “Search only public domain materials” to see all of the copyright free images.

Cite: David Douglass-Jaimes. "These Are the Best Architecture Images from the NYPL’s New Public Domain Collection" 14 Jan 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/780312/these-are-the-best-architecture-images-from-the-nypls-new-public-domain-collection/>